How passionate individuals regulate their activity with other life domains: A goal-systemic perspective

J Pers. 2019 Dec;87(6):1136-1150. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12463. Epub 2019 Feb 20.


Objective: People that pursue a passionate activity obsessively (vs. harmoniously) tend to neglect (vs. integrate) other important life domains, yet research has been silent on the psychological mechanism explaining these differences in self-regulation. The purpose of this research was to address this gap by testing the role of alternative goal suppression.

Method: Four studies tested whether harmonious passion is characterized by the pursuit of multifinality, the preference for means that gratify multiple goals simultaneously, whereas obsessive passion is characterized by the pursuit of counterfinality, the preference for means that serves a focal goal to the detriment of other pursuits. Underlying this relationship is the tendency to suppress goals conflicting with one's passion.

Results: Study 1 found cross-sectional support for these hypotheses. Study 2 replicated Study 1 and extended it by demonstrating that the relationship between obsessive passion and counterfinal means is mediated by alternative goal suppression. Study 3 replicated these findings using an experimental manipulation of passion. Study 4 found similar results by experimentally manipulating alternative goal suppression, the mediator, to demonstrate its causal influence on means evaluation.

Conclusions: Collectively, the present results demonstrate that passion plays a significant role in the type of means-ends relations preferred for goal pursuits.

Keywords: counterfinality; goal systems theory; goal-shielding; multifinality; passion.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Self-Control*